Cash’s cow: the dairy tradition continues
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 4:59pm admin
When Cash Albers first became interested in raising a heifer calf two years ago, his father, Josh, offered him a range cow calf. Cash had other designs, though.
Influenced by his uncle, Justin, Cash had his heart set on a Holstein heifer. He found one that came from out of state, but which he purchased through a seller in Belle Fourche. His father and uncle met the seller at the Flying J in Rapid City to get the calf, and Cash was in business.
Cash eventually halter broke the heifer calf that he named Molly. Her good disposition and appearance have earned her two consecutive reserve champion titles in Custer, as well as showmanship honors for Cash at Western Junior.
Cash had intended to breed Molly to a dairy bull, but “an Angus bull got to her first,” Cash said.
He did get his wish that she would calve in December, though.
“I wanted a Christmas calf,” Cash said.
Molly gave birth to a black bull calf, and Cash earned a new chore. On weekday mornings, when Cash has to go to school with his mother, Katie, and his sister, Lily, the morning milking is done by Josh or Justin. In the evenings, though, he is on the job.
Cash steps into the barn where Molly and her calf wait. Molly follows easily when Cash takes her by the halter and leads her into a stanchion. Justin, who is well accustomed to milk cows from the days when the Albers family ran a Grade AA milking operation, remarks at the ease with which Molly took to milking.
“I’ll never milk another cow that is not halter broke again,” Justin said.
With Molly situated in her stanchion, Cash takes a washcloth out of a bucket of warm, clean water and washes Molly’s udder. This is both relaxing for the cow and a way to ensure that the cow’s udder is clean, providing for the cleanest possible milk. After her bag has been washed, each quarter of her bag is opened with a few squirts of milk to get the flow readied.
Instead of hand milking Molly, Cash and his work crew utilize a single unit automatic milker. The milker, which is powered by electricity, features four ports to hook to the cow’s quarters. With a flip of a switch, pressure begins to build in the milker. When the pressure gauge indicates that the machine is ready, Cash, with a slight amount of help from Justin, suctions the ports to the cow’s quarters. The machine milks all four quarters simultaneously, and is gentler on the cow than hand milking would be, according to Justin.
Once the machine is properly engaged, Molly waits patiently, content to eat the grain that Cash provided for her. The milk is visible in the clear plastic tubes running from the cow to a stainless steel milk pail. The whole operation is remarkably clean, since the milk receptacle is covered and the cow’s udder was cleaned prior to the ports being put in place.
Now Cash’s job is to wait by Molly’s side to ascertain that the ports stay in place, no air leaks occur, and the flow of milk is properly maintained. Josh and Justin remind Cash to pay particular attention to the back quarters. When the front quarters are finished milking, the back quarters still have milk, and Cash must apply proper pressure to the milking machine to finish stripping out the back quarters.
The whole milking takes no more than 15 minutes. Despite an audience of four adults and one helpful little sister, Cash and Molly are nonplussed. “You could set off a bomb by Molly and she wouldn’t care,” Katie said.
Molly’s calf, Ferdinand, receives the first share of the milk when the milking is complete. Cash takes a two quart bottle of the still-warm milk and steps into a sawdust padded stall where the vigorous young calf is housed.
Ferdinand is eager for his supper, and Cash holds the bottle high to keep the calf from butting him when the calf hits the bottle. In mere minutes, the calf has the bottle finished.
Back in the heated area of the barn, which also serves as a den of sorts for the Albers family, Cash utilizes the kitchen area to clean the milk. Using a funnel and filters specifically designed for cleaning milk, Cash and Justin pour the milk into plastic containers. Molly gave over two gallons. She gives even more for the morning milking, according to Cash.
With that much milk, Cash and his family have become creative with ways to utilize their surplus. Katie planned to spend the rest of the evening making butter. She is also experienced with making soft cheeses, and plans to attempt some hard cheese as well. Cash is willing to provide milk to any neighbors who prefer raw milk to the ultra-pasteurized milk that is purchased at the grocery store.
After the milk has been properly cleaned, dated, and stored in the waiting refrigerator, Cash sets to work cleaning the milking machine. Clean hot water and a special sanitizer are run into a stainless steel bucket, and the combination is run through the milker in much the same way the milk did during the milking. This ensures that the ports, hoses and milk receptacle are all sanitized. When that round is finished, Cash runs another bucket of clean, hot rinse water through the machine to clear any sanitizer residue.
Finished with this final step, Cash’s milking chores are complete. It is more responsibility than simply purchasing a gallon of milk at the grocery store, but Cash does not seem to mind. In fact, he would like to breed Molly to a dairy bull next time around and enlarge his dairy herd. On this pale, frosty January night, Cash and Molly are evidence that ingenuity and hard work are still alive and well in western South Dakota.